Until recently the Government had stipulated that only wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Canadian Standards Association could be used in any public building projects, to guarantee threatened forests were not being felled with tax payers’ money.

But early this month it announced it would now consider certification from two other schemes, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, as adequate proof of sustainability (see related story).

Both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have called into question the wisdom of this move, believing the only truly trustworthy scheme is the FSC’s and letting new programmes provide wood for lucrative government contracts was a backwards step.

The campaign groups say there is evidence that both the new schemes have allowed large scale, unsustainable logging in ancient forest areas, the destruction of endangered species habitat and the abuse of indigenous peoples’ rights.

They say the standards required by both schemes for certification are considerably lower than those of the FSC and the schemes are being used to ‘greenwash’ unsustainable timber.

Nathan Argent, Greenpeace forest campaigner said: “This decision by the Government will rubber-stamp destructive logging practices that threaten the environment and do not take into consideration indigenous peoples’ rights.

“We urge both the public and private sector to clearly specify FSC on all contracts in order to guarantee that the timber they are using is from legal and sustainable sources.”

Ed Matthew, Friends of the Earth’s forest campaigner added: “The Government has come up with an ingenious method for persuading its critics that it only buys sustainable timber.

“They are officially recognising destructive logging as sustainable logging. Hey presto, all that horrible destructive timber that they buy has disappeared.”

By Sam Bond

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